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Essential Science: Cannabis users affected worse by COVID-19

The SARS-CoV-2 virus that is behind global pandemic appears to affect populations differently. One at risk group are users of medicinal cannabis, and a new study is looking into why.

Researchers from the University of Miami are exploring the relationship between cannabis use and COVID-19 symptoms, drawing on current epidemiological data. The main focus is with medicinal cannabis users.

Why are medicinal cannabis users affected?

There are different considerations as to why medicinal cannabis users are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. This may relate to issues relating to lung function (as with smokers, as discussed below) or to the fact that many users of medicinal cannabis are those with compromised immune systems or who are suffering with chronic medical conditions.

Data gathering

The research into the cannabis and COVID-19 symptoms is on-going, given the early stages of the global pandemic. The on-going research aims to collect data relating to the patterns and trends relating to users.

The network allegedly supplied marijuana  ecstasy and cocaine

The network allegedly supplied marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine

Data will be collected via electronic surveys. Here the scientists are seeking to obtain epidemiologic data relating to the mental and physical health among medicinal cannabis users.

As well as the physical health of the drug users, the researchers are keen to ascertain nay impact from those who share inhaled cannabis products.


According to lead researcher Professor Denise C. Vidot, in conversation with Laboratory Manager, the implications are that while disease severity for medical cannabis is uniform, each case “includes individuals with compromised immune systems and other chronic health conditions. Therefore, this is a population that we cannot forget about in our joint effort to ‘flatten the curve.”

This is important given that in places like the U.S., medicinal cannabis users have been told to prepare for delays in health care delivery while the coronavirus situation continues.

Tobacco smoking

In related news, data compiled by the UK government shows that tobacco smokers at greater risk of severe respiratory disease from COVID-19. In relation to this, emerging evidence from China shows smokers with COVID-19 are 14 times more likely to develop severe respiratory disease.

E-cigarettes have been pushed as a safer alternative to smoking but critics say the flavours appeal ...

E-cigarettes have been pushed as a safer alternative to smoking but critics say the flavours appeal particularly to children

Quitting smoking at any time point appears to be beneficial, according to the Chinese research. As an example:

After 48 hours carbon monoxide is eliminated from the body. Lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris
After 72 hours breathing becomes easier as bronchial tubes begin to relax
After 2 to 12 weeks blood circulation improves, making physical activity like walking and running easier

The study is published in the Chinese Medical Journal: “Analysis of factors associated with disease outcomes in hospitalized patients with 2019 novel coronavirus disease.”

Essential Science

This article is part of Digital Journal’s regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue.

With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Israel rising  Gantz has previously pledged to seek a...

With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Israel rising, Gantz has previously pledged to seek an emergency unity alliance with Netanyahu

Last week we took the opportunity to carry out a round-up of the latest COVID-19 news, including how long people potentially remain infectious for; how the virus jumped from bats to humans; and hand sanitization advice.

The week before we considered a new review of certain prescribed medications indicates that some drugs may make COVID-19 symptoms worse, especially in relation to the lungs.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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